Banning used games would cripple gaming's soul

By Mike on 10:56 pm

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You walk into the front door and you're met with wall to wall nerdgasm. The shop is filled with the musty smell of old electronics. Every single nook and cranny is lined with games for every system you could dream of, and a few you never knew existed. ToyRatt in Milton, Ontario is one of those rare gems. Their staff is driven by a passion for vintage video games. You can chill out with them, talk games, or even play a few with your fellow geeks on their big screen TV. Something that future generations may be denied if Sony and Microsoft get their way.

Today, Edge leaked a report suggesting that the Xbox Durango may ban the use of used games. When you purchase a disc copy, its specific serial number would be forever tied to your Xbox Live account. Sony recently patented a similar system to block out used games.

The used video game market has been around for as long as gaming has been around. However, game publishers have suddenly begun to equate it to piracy. When you buy a used game, publishers never see a dime from that sale.

For retailers like GameStop, the sale of second-hand games is big business. Profit margins on new games are  thin. A friend who owns a computer shop sold games at one point. At the time he was only making $5 for every copy. He didn't sell enough to make it worth while so they were taken off the shelf. Retailers like GameStop and Best Buy have the same problem. Buying and selling used games is a good way to boost profits. Since they're cheaper to buy, it's a win-win for both retailers and budget minded gamers. Though many have accused GameStop of paying too little for used copies and selling them only a few dollars below MSRP. Which is partly why Microsoft and Sony have their panties in a knot.

Even if you hate GameStop, the loss of the used market would be a major infringement on consumers rights. If this becomes reality, video games would be the first ever industry to completely ban the sale of used items. Imagine how ludicrous it would be if eBay, Kijiji, Craigslist and Autotrader were shut down. If Goodwill could no longer accept donations because sales of used clothes aren't going to labels. It's all silly but that's the point we've gotten too in our greedy, materialistic corporate culture.

Worse still, it would kill the soul of gaming. For years, gamers have been buying, selling, renting, and trading  to grow their collections and fuel their obsession. Stores like ToyRatt aren't GameStop. They're run by a couple of guys or girls who just live and love video games. They're not greedy corporate monsters. If the industry bans used games, they'd be put out of business. Classic yet unpopular titles would die quick deaths in favour of bland shooters that sell lots but hardcore gamers hate. Once the servers go down and the discs stopped getting pressed, it's curtain call. Many great games I've discovered I've found in used bins. The loss would cheapen the art form by denying so many fantastic titles the appreciation they deserve.

What about the PC market? Used games have been defacto banned on that platform for years. Which is true except for one catch. PC games tend to be substantially cheaper than console games, and they tend to go on sale more often. Also many disc based PC games have moved away from DRM which ties copies to specific accounts or hardware. The Spore debacle and the revolt of casual games four years ago caused a paradigm shift regarding this style of copy protection. So used PC gaming has potential for a comeback.

Lets keep our vibrant culture alive by retaining the used market, help protect small used game shops, and let Microsoft and Sony know what you think of their plans. Tweet @Xbox and @Playstation to ensure that future gamers will have access to today's best games. Use #SaveUsedGames.

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